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Thursday, April 10, 2008       Free Headline Alerts

U.S. Air Force sets up cyberspace command against continuing China attacks

China has developed cyber warfare forces and the Air Force has created a cyberspace command to provide both defensive and offensive computer network weapons, a senior Air Force general said last week.

Asked if China was planning a cyber “Pearl Harbor” surprise attack, Maj. Gen. William Lord, the cyber forces commander, said numerous Chinese-origin probes may be “reconnaissance” intrusions to determine if cyber warfare capabilities are detected as part of preparation for some future attack.

Capt. Jason Simmons and Staff Sgt. Clinton Tips update anti-virus software for Air Force units to assist in the prevention of cyberspace hackers last July at Barksdale Air Force Base, La.       U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo
“So when the lights go out, when the traffic lights don't work, when the data in the stock exchange has been manipulated, when the cell phones don't work, when the escalators in FAO Schwartz don't work, imagine what happens within the United States. Imagine that now laid over a command and control ability of any force,” he said at a conference of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Air Force Col. Jeffrey Kendall, who appeared with Lord, said China has been among the most active players in the cyberwarfare arena. Chinese hackers took down a White House website in 2001 and in June 2007, the Chinese military was behind an attack on the secretary of defense’s unclassified email systems. And in August 2007, 28 defense contractors were targeted by Chinese hackers.

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Lord said cyber warfare would be a key element of asymmetric warfare, something Chinese military writings frequently discuss in contemplating a potential future conflict with the United States.

“Just like we send out reconnaissance teams, perhaps those are reconnaissance activities that are going on,” he said. “At the same time, because this is, again, a nascent business, we don't know what we don't know, in theory.”

Asked the reasons for Chinese attacks, Lord said he did not know. China as well as cyber-criminal activities from Russia are both problems, he said.

“We take forces that we have organized, trained and equipped, and give them to combatant commanders for employment, and that's exactly what we're doing,” Lord said.

“We are taking a page out of the history of the U.S. Army and the U.S. Navy who have already stood up equivalent kinds of forces, the Navy Netwarcom, and Landwar that the Army has are equivalent organizations, for them to do similar kinds of things.”

Lord said the major objective of the command is to defend Air Force command and control links “so that those of us who are most dependent on it can continue to fight the fight when those links perhaps are attacked.” The command would prevent the breakdown of radios and computers and other systems used to make combat decisions, he said.

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